First Degree Murder

What You Need to Know About First Degree Murder in Virginia

Your Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer will educate you regarding your fact specific case; however, it is important to have a basic understanding of how the Commonwealth of Virginia views the crime of Murder and its varying degrees. This short article will focus on “First Degree Murder.”

The cornerstone to understanding first degree murder is the term “Premeditation.” Your Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer can explain to you how first degree murder may not be the appropriate charge, when the murder has occurred due to reckless behavior without an intent to kill the victim. In other words, recklessness generally can not be premeditated.

Some areas of Virginia law are difficult to understand, and as such, consulting an experienced Virginia Beach Criminal Defense Attorney may be critical. For example, some old Virginia cases have dicta which suggest that first degree murder charges may be brought under circumstances of “intent to cause serious bodily injury,” or, what is referred to as “depraved heart” recklessness.

To be exact, the Statute in Virginia that defines first degree murder describes the charge as a “[m]urder . . . by any willful, deliberate or premeditated killing . . . .”

Your Virginia Beach Criminal Lawyer can assess your case to ensure that the prosecution has not incorrectly applied the law to the facts. Based on Virginia cases, premeditation can not exist unless there is “intent to kill.”

What is an Important Defense Available to a Person Accused of First Degree Murder?

Intoxication is recognized as a defense to premeditated murder in Virginia. Interestingly, the defense of intoxication is not available to other crimes that include the element of “specific intent.”  Thus, your Virginia Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer can help you understand what defense may be available in your case.

1. Howell v. Commonwealth, 67 Va. 995, 997, 26 Gratt, 995, 1875 WL 5719 (1875).

2. Betancourt v. Com., 26 Va. App. 263, 372, 494 S.E.2d 873, 879 (1998).

3. Smith v. Com., 220 Va. 696, 704, 261 S.E.2d 550, 555 (1980).